Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2024

Thank you to our volunteers!

The League is grateful to all the poets and poetry lovers who donate their time and expertise to help make what we do possible. We are thrilled to celebrate all of our volunteers this week during National Volunteer Week.

We are also excited to celebrate some of our special recognition award winners this week: our newest Colleen Thibaudeau Award winner, and our newest Life and Honorary members. Congratulations to these pillars of poetry and community!

2024 Special Recognition Awards

Colleen Thibaudeau Award for Outstanding Contribution

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2024 winner: Daniela Elza

Daniela Elza lived on three continents before immigrating to Canada in 1999.  Her latest poetry collections are the broken boat (2020) & slow erosions (2020). Recently her poetry on housing in the city won second place in the 2022 Ken Belford Poetry Prize for Social Justice, first place in the 2023 Muriel's Journey Poetry Prize, was long listed in the 2023 Vera Manuel Poetry Prize, and won the 2023 September Award for Awesomeness at Arc Poetry Magazine. Daniela currently dedicates time to preserving and growing affordable homes in her community in Vancouver, located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. She is a founding member of the Place Mattering Matters Collective where she explores the math and poetry of our homes to bring complexity and nuance to conversations on housing. She continues to organize and co-host Twisted Poets Literary Salon and to support non-profit literary organizations in various capacities. She is committed to nurturing youth writers and hosting events where we can celebrate their voices. Many of her students have placed in contests including Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize and have had their work published. When Daniela is not writing, or volunteering, she works as an editor, mentor, and creative writing instructor.

From winner Daniela Elza:

In a world where profit margins overpower values, ethics, and wellbeing, volunteer work fuels writing organizations, reading series, literary journals and many community building activities. The good kind of fuel, one that doesn’t cause lasting damage to ecosystems. The kind of oil you want to spill. It grows ecosystems for people. Writers and writing organizations survive, even thrive, on the work of volunteers.

When I began my journey as a writer one thing became clear: I was better off connecting with other writers. But where were these writers? I’d just immigrated to a new country. I lived in Maple Ridge. I started a three-people writing group and organized a conversation salon to ward off isolation and stay sane in a bedroom “community” where coffee houses were mostly empty. Some young people even traveled from Mission for the salons.

When I moved to Vancouver in 2003, I was alone with my writing all over again. Serendipitously, I met some dedicated writers running organizations which offered readings, workshops, writing groups, festivals, and book clubs. I was embraced and encouraged. Many of these events or opportunities wouldn’t have been there if the people who hosted them waited to be paid, let alone paid adequately. Here lies the tension between doing work that is necessary and work we get paid for. We say that the arts are worth dying for, but that does not mean we should let artists perish. Being part of a community was integral to sustaining and pursuing writing. But a community sustains through reciprocity and giving back. And so I did.

 It often feels that the work we do daily is never done and never enough, but it is. Rebecca Solnit says: “To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” I volunteer because I want to keep building the world I want to live in. Hope is never misplaced when you are actively working on what is life giving, what creates spaces where one can belong. David Orr puts it nicely, “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.”

Much gratitude goes to the people who make this writing train run. Those who are putting endless hours, yet again, this year to book us for festivals, who organize readings to launch or feature our books at, those who interview us, write book reviews, those who judge contests and book awards, who read our work for journals that publish us, or provide a bed for us to lay our heads after the launches and celebrations. I have benefited from this generosity, and in return I continue to devote time to each of these activities, including now working on preserving our affordable homes here in my community. If I got paid for all the volunteer hours I put in, I can comfortably retire.

We are still waiting for the lens to shift on what work is worth paying for. We are still waiting for the lens to shift on work we should stop paying for—work which  wreaks havoc on land and people. But while we “wait,” volunteers do not wait. Even the work to defend our right to get paid is done on volunteer time.

Much gratitude goes to you, who wrote in to recommend me. Thank you to each of you who has supported me with your generosity. You are on my gratitude map. Thank you to the League of Canadian Poets for this award.

Deep gratitude to my parents who taught me not to shy away from hard work. Do a good deed and throw it on the trash heap, they would say. Imagine the lovely trash heaps we would grow in a world like that.

Life Membership Award

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2024 winners: Sarah de Leeuw
& Bänoo Zan

The League's Life Membership Award celebrates the remarkable contributions of poets to the League, to Canadian poetry, and to our national poetry community.

Sarah de Leeuw was the fearless leader of the League for many turbulent years in her role as President, and has been crucial to the organization's and community's success in a number of ways. We are grateful for the advocacy Sarah does both within poetry for underrepresented groups, and within health and medical humanities for poetry.

Bänoo Zan has always been a pillar of poetry, advocacy, and representation in Toronto's poetry community as well as in the League's, and we celebrate all the work she does to advance poets, poetry, and diversity in Canadian Literature.

Author of seven literary books (creative non-fiction and poetry) and co-editor of five academic texts (including Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social and Geopoetics in Practice), Sarah de Leeuw’s most recent book of poetry, Lot, was named by the CBC as one of Canada’s “Best of Canadian Poetry 2022” books. Nominated in 2017 for a Governor General’s Literary Prize in non-fiction, de Leeuw holds two CBC Literary Prizes for creative non-fiction and the 2013 Dorthey Livesay BC Book Prize for poetry. De Leeuw has a PhD in historical-cultural geography and is a Professor and Canada Research Chair (Humanities and Health Inequities) with the Northern Medical Program, a distributed site of UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr. de Leeuw grew up on Haida Gwaii and in Terrace (Kitsumkalum Territory) and now divides her time between Lheidli T’enneh/Dakelh Territory (Prince George) and Syilx Territory (Okanagan Centre), British Columbia

Having been a member of the League for just over a decade, including proudly serving in various governance roles  with the organization, I am in the League’s debt for opening my eyes to national conversations about poetry and politics, poetics and society, and the broad potentials of poems to influence so many scales of (colonial) Canada, from the individual poet to entire rural communities, from small classrooms to national conventions, from train stations and doctor’s offices to publishing houses and corporate organizations. The League, to and for me, insists on the place of poetry in doings and thinkings about everyday life in so-called-Canada.

Bänoo Zan is a poet, translator, essayist, and poetry curator, with about 300 published pieces and three books including Songs of Exile and Letters to My Father. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Canada’s most diverse and brave poetry open mic (inception 2012). It is a brave space that bridges the gap between communities of poets from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions (or lack thereof), ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, poetic styles, voices, and visions. Bänoo is the co-editor of the poetry anthology: Woman, Life, Freedom: Poems for the Iranian Revolution.

On being awarded Life Membership, Bänoo writes:

It is an honour to receive Life Membership in the League of Canadian Poets.

I appreciate the League’s support of poets—who are some of society’s most visionary creators—and their poetry through various streams such as funding for readings, publications, and contests; community committees; and opportunities for inspiration and growth.

I would like to thank Kate Marshall Flaherty who encouraged me to join in 2016 after the publication of my first poetry collection, Songs of Exile. My thanks also go to the League leadership, staff, and volunteers throughout the years as well as the selection committee for this award.

May poetry bring peace to the world.

Honorary Membership Award

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2024 winners: Shelf Life Books
& McGill Queen's University Press

Shelf Life Books began in 2010 as the brainchild of two old friends, William Lawrence and JoAnn McCaig, who shared a love of books and reading. Will, a history buff and experienced retailer, and JoAnn, a writer and former English professor, agreed that Calgary needed an independent bookstore downtown and worked hard to fill that need.

Shelf Life Books inhabits the Fourth Street building that many Calgarians fondly remember as the home of the gay bar Parkside Continental, which operated from 1973 to 1986. Other Calgarians may recognize the building as the one that sits behind Evelyn Grant’s familiar sculpture Counting Crows, which was installed in 2001. The building’s landmark status evolved further when, in 2019, Kat and Derek Simmers painted a mural on the back wall as part of Calgary’s annual BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) Festival in 2019.

In October 2020, Shelf Life Books celebrated its tenth anniversary. Shelf Life Books has been warmly welcomed by the Calgary reading and writing community since first opening its doors. Many well-known and celebrated writers have appeared at our store, including Will Ferguson, Rudy Wiebe, the Minimalists, Jap Blonk, Vivek Shraya, bill bissett, Malcolm Mooney, Chris Turner, Sharon Butala, Sheri-D Wilson, and chef Matty Matheson. Shelf Life Books also prides itself on its community engagement and events programming, and many of Calgary’s local writers read and browse here on the regular.

McGill-Queen's University Press is a scholarly publisher that defends, refutes, and creates fresh interpretations of the world. With over 4,000 books in print and numerous awards and bestsellers, our goal is to produce peer-reviewed, rigorously edited, beautifully produced, intelligent, interesting books.

A joint venture of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, MQUP is both a specialist in the Canadian perspective and a publisher of international themes, attracting attention from the New York Times to the Globe & Mail.

McGill-Queen's University Press is pleased to be the publisher of the Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series. Launched in 1998, the series is named in honour of the late Hugh MacLennan, acclaimed Canadian novelist and a poet in his own right. It is funded by proceeds from the intellectual property of Hugh MacLennan's estate, which he donated to McGill University.

Celebrating our volunteers

Thank you to our Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors supports our members and our staff in the governance of our organization, providing guidance in matters from policy to programming. This Board has been working hard to complete our transition to a new governance structure, while also preparing an ambitious 3-year strategic plan that went into effect on April 1, 2024.

Rayanne Haines headshot
Rayanne Haines, President
Hendrik Slegtenhorst headshot
Hendrik Slegtenhorst, Vice Presdient
Frances K Boyle headshot
Frances K Boyle, Secretary
Michael Andrews headshot
Michael Andrews, Treasurer
Tracy Hamon headshot
Tracy Hamon, Past President
Jaclyn Desforges headshot
Jaclyn Desforges, Membership Chair
Stuart Ian McKay, EDI Chair
Stuart Ian McKay, EDI Chair
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In addition to being our fearless leaders, our Board of Directors comprises many talented poets! While they are on our Board, they have limited options to showcase their poetic talents in League programs, so we're very excited to be featuring their poems in a special run of Poetry Pause during National Volunteer Week.

Committee volunteers

Thank you to the inspired and ambitious poets who lead and participate in the League's committees and governance.

  • Britta B.
  • Moni Brar
  • Allan Briesmaster
  • Ayesha Chatterjee
  • Jessica Coles
  • Jennifer Bowering Delisle
  • Diana Manole
  • Amoya Ree
  • Stephen Kent Roney
  • Richard-Yves Sitoski
  • Dani Spinosa
  • Diana Hope Tegenkamp


Program volunteers

Many of our programs rely on the generosity of poets who donate their time and expertise to write spontaneous poetry, craft reviews, and make selections for chapbooks and contests.

  • Erin Bedford
  • Louise Carson
  • Briar Craig
  • Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews
  • Antonia Facciponte
  • K.P. Heyming
  • Maureen Hynes
  • Kevin Irie
  • Deborah L. Kelly
  • Donna Langevin
  • Sharon Lax
  • Rion Levy
  • Vivian Li
  • Grace Ma
  • Kate Marshall Flaherty
  • Laura K McRae
  • Stephen Morrissey
  • Anita Ngai
  • Pearl Pirie
  • Susie Whelehan
  • Elana Wolff